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NSA leaks lead to Pulitzer

The Washington Post and The Guardian won the Pulitzer Prize in public service Monday for revealing the U.S. government's sweeping surveillance efforts in stories based on thousands of secret documents handed over by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

The Pulitzer for breaking news was awarded to The Boston Globe for its "exhaustive and empathetic" coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt that followed.

The awards are American journalism's highest honour.

The winning entries about the NSA's spy programs showed the government has collected information about millions of Americans' phone calls and emails based on its classified interpretation of laws passed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The disclosures touched off a furious debate in the U.S. over privacy versus security and led President Barack Obama to impose limits on the surveillance.

The stories were written by Barton Gellman at The Washington Post and Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewan MacAskill of The Guardian. The British newspaper has an American website.

"I think this it's amazing news," Poitras said in New York. "It's a testament to Snowden's courage, a vindication of his courage and his desire to let the public know what the government is doing."

At the Globe, staff members said the announcement of the award -- coming just a day before the anniversary of the bombing -- was met with a moment of silence in the newsroom for the victims.

The attack last April 15 killed three people and wounded more than 260 near the finish line of one of the world's most celebrated races, transforming a celebratory event into a scene of horror and heroics.

The New York Times won two Pulitzers in photography: Tyler Hicks was honoured in the breaking news category for documenting the Westgate mall terrorist attack in Kenya, and Josh Haner was cited for his essay on a Boston Marathon blast victim who lost his legs.

The Center for Public Integrity's Chris Hamby won the award for investigative reporting for his reporting on how some lawyers and doctors rigged a system to deny benefits to coal miners suffering from black lung disease.

The Pulitzer for explanatory reporting was given to The Washington Post's Eli Saslow for reporting on the prevalence of food stamps in America.

No award was handed out for feature writing.

The winners of the public service award receive gold medals. The other awards carry a $10,000 prize.

The prize for national reporting was awarded to David Philipps of The Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colorado, for an investigation that found that the Army has discharged escalating numbers of traumatized combat veterans who commit crimes at home.

The Pulitzer for international reporting went to Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall of Reuters for their reports on the violent persecution of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar.

The Oregonian newspaper was awarded a Pulitzer for its editorial writing, with the judges honouring a selection of works that focused on reforms in the public employees retirement system.

The prize was the third in the newspaper's history for editorial writing.

The Tampa Bay Times' Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia won in local reporting for delving into the squalid housing for the city's homeless.

"These reporters faced long odds. They had to visit dicey neighbourhoods late at night. They had to encourage county officials to be courageous and come forth with records," said Neil Brown, the Tampa Bay Times' editor and vice-president. "And in the end what they were ultimately doing was standing up for people who had no champion and no advocate."

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